Not many revolvers can claim the fame that the Cimarron Man With No Name conversion can. The Man With No Name is a replica of a Colt conversion revolver that propelled Clint Eastwood to fame and made The Good, The Bad and The Ugly an iconic spaghetti Western. Just like the film in which it appeared, the Cimarron Man With No Name bends the facts a bit. But who really cares, since it’s just like Clint’s gun.
The fact is, in the early 1870s, Colt could not produce a metallic-cartridge revolver because Smith & Wesson held the patent for metallic-cartridge revolvers. Metallic cartridges at that time were the latest technology in weapon design. In 1871, Colt employee Charles Richards was awarded a patent for converting Colt open-top percussion models to fire metallic cartridges. A year later, another Colt employee, William Mason, improved the Richards design, and from then on Colt began producing open-top revolvers to fire metallic cartridges using the Richards-Mason conversion. When the patent expired for Smith & Wesson, Colt introduced the Model 1873 Single Action Army. But Colt conversion revolvers were very popular with cowboys and settlers, since they cost about a third that of the newer Colt Model 1873.
Originals, like the Cimarron replica, are a hybrid of features from percussion revolvers and cartridge revolvers. These open-top revolvers—no topstrap on the frame—utilize a wedge pin that fixes the barrel to the frame, as on all Colt percussion revolvers, while a few features common to cartridge-firing revolvers were added, including a loading gate in the recoil shield, a firing pin fixed in the hammer, cylinder chambers bored out to accept metallic cartridges and an ejector rod. Basically, Colt’s conversion revolvers looked like percussion revolvers with some parts bolted on and others left off. Oddly, the Cimarron Man With No Name lacks an ejector rod and instead has a loading lever. Original Colts came from the factory without the loading lever since there was no need for it. The conversion allowed for the use of metallic cartridges, and the loading lever was used to load loose black powder and lead balls into a percussion revolver’s chambers. This is where that truth starts bending.
Italian director Sergio Leone’s vision of the Old West in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly takes place during the Civil War. Leone used a cast of American actors—Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef—and Italian and Spanish extras on a movie set that was located in the south of Spain, not far from the Mediterranean Ocean. In the film Eastwood wields a Colt Model 1851 Navy Richards-Mason conversion about 10 years before Colt conversion models were actually available. Of course, the Civil War lasted from 1861 to 1865; the Richards-Mason conversion was introduced in 1872. Call it poetic license or movie-making magic, it’s up to you. The truth was then bent a little further, as Clint’s revolver still has the loading lever installed.
Movie guns in the 1950s through the ‘70s required require what is call, “suspension of belief,” or “suspension of reality” meaning the prop man or armorer performed a bit of movie magic an left the loading lever on the revolver so the the gun looked like a cap-and-ball revolver yet could be loaded with cartridges. The loading lever made Clint’s gun look like a cap-and-ball revolver circa the Civil War. Cimarron left the loading lever in place, too, to faithfully reproduce the movie revolver.
Cimarron actually took some liberties of its own and chambered the Man With No Name conversion in .38 Colt and .38 Special. The .38 Special was designed in 1898. Original 1851 Navy conversion revolvers were chambered in .38 rimfire. In this case, bending the truth created a revolver that exudes the steely nerve and lethal coolness Eastwood portrayed in his character in the film. You can almost hear the movie’s soundtrack playing in the background—wah wah wah—when you pick up the Cimarron.
The Man With No Name has a quality casehardened finish on the frame, hammer and rear section of the loading lever. The barrel and cylinder are a dark blue and, as with original Navy 1851s, a naval battle scene is engraved on the six-shot cylinder. Also like originals, the triggerguard and backstrap are made of brass with the latter housing a solid walnut grip. As mentioned, one of the other distinguishing features of the Man With No Name is the silver inlay of a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike on the grip.
Colt Navy 1851s are some of the most well-balanced revolvers ever made. The 7½-inch, octagonal barrel on the Cimarron gives the pistol some heft. It weighs about 3 pounds.
To see if Cimarron succeeded in merging fact and fiction, I would’ve liked to test the Man With No Name at high noon, under a blazing sun, while facing off against desperadoes. But, here in the real world, I tested the pistol on an overcast day at the range at around 3:30 p.m. For gun leather, I paired the Man With No Name with a Classic Old West Styles (COWS) Ruff Rider 1973 holster rig. The belt, holster and bullet slide are made of top-grain brushed leather with a silver, squared buckle. The leather has a suede finish with the rough side out.
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The Man With No Name chambers both .38 Special and .38 Colt, and because there is no internal safety system, loading cartridges is similar to any SAA revolver. Fill one hole, skip the next hole, then fill the remaining chambers. I tested the revolver with three loads: 130-grain Federal American Eagle FMJs, Winchester Cowboy 158-grain LFN rounds and Winchester’s 125-grain WinClean JSPs.
The balance of the Man With No Name conversion was splendid and, like the original Colt 1851 Navy, it’s a natural pointer. At 15 yards, it was easy to group clusters of holes using one hand, as required in the SASS Duelist category. With two hands I was as deadly as the gunfighters in the movie. Because of the revolver’s weight, recoil was nil, making follow-up shots as fast as I could thumb back the hammer. The skinny trigger broke at a crisp 3 pounds. Like most well-made single-actions, it shot to the point of aim, so there was no need to estimate windage or elevation. The front sight on the Man With No Name consists of a conical brass bead that is aligned in the shallow rear sight mounted on the rear of the barrel, which can be adjusted for windage. It shot dead on.
The Cimarron Man With No Name is beautifully manufactured and performed well. It would be a valuable part of any Western movie buff ’s collection.
For more information, visit http://www.cimarron-firearms.com or call 830-997-9090.
This article originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST®, print and digital subscriptions to GUNS OF THE OLD WEST are available here.